Writer and photographer Lina Burger shares her photographic impressions of genuine Ukraine
Lina has been our regular contributor since the very beginning and her posts, always full of sincere tenderness for Ukraine and its people, have enjoyed wide popularity. Apart from being an inspired writer Lina is also a talented photographer able to grasp both the sleepy early morning glory of the Ukrainian countryside and the shimmering garland of Lviv’s city lights at dusk. Her camera works wonders turning scenes we might dismiss as ordinary into precious aesthetic moments. In his famous essay on fairy tales, J.R.R. Tolkien explores how imagination can help people wipe up the glass of their perception and see the world anew in its immediate beauty untarnished by the stale impressions and stereotypes. This is what Lina is doing in this project looking at the world through the lens of her camera.
About the love of mountains
I love mountains! One of the reasons why I moved across the country a year ago is because I wanted to be closer to them. It does not mean that I have explored a lot since then, but my visits to the mountains have become more frequent than once per a couple of years. And while I am making my tentative steps to explore more, here are some glimpses I’ve already caught. Let’s start with casual shots of my grandparent’s backyard. The house is at the foot of the hill, so, going from the backyard to the fence is basically going up and down. If you venture to go to the garden and vegetable patch you can see some hills already!
The same place from a slightly different angle.
I have never been to the Carpathian mountains as an idle tourist and have not yet tried climbing with a backpack. All my experience is visiting relatives there and getting involved in activities that locals do. This includes helping with work on the vegetable patches like the one you see in the foreground of this picture.
One more shot of the same place. I especially love how the light brings the abandoned house into sharp focus.
The same place but I looked in another direction. These are remnants of an experimental station which fell to decay like many other institutions after the USSR fell apart.
People in the countryside usually own cows to provide them with dairy products. I grew up in a village myself and our family also had them. But I grew up on the plains in the east, and now can surely say that taking care of cows in the East of Ukraine is not the same as in the Western mountain part. This and the following photos will introduce you to the craft of cows owners.
The two most important things you need to know about cows is that they eat and poop and do both in huge amounts. When your family owns such a huge animal lots of your time might be devoted to grazing, storing hay for winter and removing poop. I will not tell you about the last one (it is not a pleasant sight, indeed), but let’s explore the first two points in more detail. So, this is my sister’s family cow on the way to grazing. Her black and white colour is not typical for the area and she often feels hot in summer.
Every family goes cattle grazing in turns. One animal equals one day of grazing and so on. Two people are quite enough to take care of about 30-50 cows. They do not need to be closely followed since all cows know the road pretty well and have their internal clock to tell them when it is time to go home. They are smart enough to understand that one person cannot hold them and start going in different directions. But if there are two and more people together controlling the cattle becomes much easier. Often kids get involved in grazing. It is an easy task for them, the main rule is to have a big stick so that animals obey and do not try to hurt them.
My sister and her daughter have a break in cattle grazing.
Although cows know where they should go, this does not stop them from trying to risk into somebody’s garden or some thick bushes. In this case, kids come in handy because you can ask them to run fast and return the animal to the herd. Here you see my older nephew and his father guarding cows from entering the borshchovyk field.
Borshchovyk is a dangerous plant. It cannot do cows any harm but their milk gets spoiled. The plant appeared in Western Ukraine as result of an experiment. Scientists wanted to grow it as food for cows but abandoned the idea soon. The plant turned out to be stubborn and locals have not been able to get rid of it for years now. It grows everywhere, can survive hard conditions, even burning and boiling water cannot kill it. Even 5 year old kids know that you should not touch it because it can result in bad burns.
Okay, now that you know about grazing it is time to move to hay stuff. While cows chew grass peacefully their owners work hard to store hay for winter. In eastern Ukraine hay is usually made from alfalfa (lucerne) that is planted on fields with tractors. In the mountains it is incredibly hard to use tractors so people still go for wild grass hay. Grass needs to be cut with good old scythe or the one that works on petrol. It is important to cut grass in the early morning when dew makes it easier for the blade to move and the wet leaves do not fall off.
After cutting, grass lies on the ground for some time, then it is turned to dry on the other side. Locals use light tridents made of a single wooden stick. They are easy to carry up and down the hill. My nephew on this photo takes a short break looking at the amount of work to be done.
The tridents are so light that even small kids can operate them. Another nephew is practicing trident levitation in this image.
The weird sleigh-like thing in this picture is used to deliver dry hay from the hill to the storage place. Hay is put in a heap there, then a man takes the weird sleigh and runs down the hill. When watching this I always wondered how they do not break their legs running with that thing behind them. It is not easy to guess from this picture, but a heap of hay is usually as high as a grown up man. If you imagine that you can understand my concern.
In this picture you see an attic used for hay storage. I made this shot in mid summer when it was still empty and used to store inventory.
Another hay storage place in an apple garden in the backyard.
Another thing that I love in Transcarpathia is old houses. This one is just a few steps away from the house my family lives in.
These houses (as well as the ones in the next 2 shots) are not as close. In fact I only saw them because I took the wrong bus one day and rode 20 km in the wrong direction. While waiting for the car to pick me up I went for a walk and shot some nice houses. I deliberately made the colours subtle here so that it looks like a photo made 30 years ago with an old camera.
If it were not for the satellite TV antenna here, this image would really look like an old photograph.
I simply love the flowers here.
Another interesting thing for me is taking pictures of people (although I suck at it most of the time). In this shot my nephew and our dog are looking for an apple that fell behind the dog’s house.
I do not know this girl and I was actually trying to shoot mountains through the wet window, but I got a much more interesting reflection shot.
This is one of the pictures I am honestly proud of. My grandparents came to see me off at the bus station and I am really glad I was able to capture them so happy and smiling.
The dog was moved to the apple garden for several days and I was lucky to have him there. He added some story to foggy morning shots. I especially love this image for its colours, and I was able to capture them without post-editing.
The same dog and (most likely) the same morning, but a different angle.
Casual mountain shot taken with my mobile.
Hope you had enough of green and orange because we’re done with it. I will finish this post with new experience I got recently. I was lucky to go skiing at the end of this winter. It was the first time I tried to ski so most of the time I had to look in front of myself trying not to fall (but I fell, a lot). However, on the second day my legs were steady enough to make several shots of the views I fell in love with.
You just look at this sky!
OMG, absolutely in love.
Yes, definitely. These snow covered trees are among the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.